David Brooks: Human Interconnection is Vital to Our Well-Being

How crucial is human interconnection to our health and well-being?  Connections are of vital importance, if  human beings do not want to feel alienated from their fellow man, writes New York Times columnist David Brooks in The New Yorker.  “We are living in the middle of a revolution in consciousness.  Over the past few decades, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and others have made great strides in understanding the inner workings of the human mind.  Far from being dryly materialistic, their work illuminates the rich underwater world where character is formed and wisdom grows.  They are giving us a better grasp of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, predispositions, character traits, and social bonding, precisely those things about which our culture has the least to say.  Brain science helps fill the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy.”

According to Brooks, the conscious mind helps us make sense of our environment.  “The cognitive revolution of the past 30 years provides a different perspective on our lives, one that emphasizes the relative importance of emotion over pure reason, social connections over individual choice, moral intuition over abstract knowledge, perceptiveness over I.Q.  It allows us to tell a different sort of success story, an inner story to go along with the conventional surface one.”

Brooks describes what he terms members of the “Composure Class.”  He writes that they “generally have a vague sense that their lives have been distorted by a giant cultural bias.  “They live in a society that prizes the development of career skills but is inarticulate when it comes to the things that matter most.  The young achievers are tutored in every soccer technique and calculus problem, but when it comes to their most important decisions — whom to marry and whom to befriend, what to love and what to despise — they are on their own.  Nor, for all their striving, do they understand the qualities that lead to the highest achievement.  Intelligence, academic performance, and prestigious schools don’t correlate well with fulfillment, or even with outstanding accomplishment.  The traits that do make a difference are poorly understood, and can’t be taught in a classroom, no matter what the tuition: the ability to understand and inspire people; to read situations and discern the underlying patterns; to build trusting relationships; to recognize and correct one’s shortcomings; to imagine alternate futures. In short, these achievers have a sense that they are shallower than they need to be.”

To listen to our recent podcast on why human connections matter, click here.